The Shakedown Cruise is over, time for the Grand Opening at Homefield Brewing

Homefield Brewing has been open for about a month, getting things working and in gear. Now that all is ready, the Grand opening will be this weekend, November 4th through the 6th. It will be a great time with music, food and of course, beer.

Below is my column that appeared in the October issue of the Sturbridge Times Magazine. Learn about the Homefield way.

Homefield Brewing, Beer from Here

If you wanted to see beer from locally sourced ingredients come to Main Street in Sturbridge, it would be a good idea to consult with the man who wrote the book on the subject. It might even be better to get him to bring it here himself.

Well he did it, but it wasn’t easy.

Jonathan Cook wrote Beer Terrain: From Field to Glass with more than a little assistance from his wife, Suzanne LePage. It is a tale of his odyssey of discovery. He thoroughly researched the local brew situation here in New England. Beer Terrain was reviewed in these pages in the December 2013 issue. Since, Jonathan and Suzanne have continued the quest.

Just how local are we when it comes to suds in the region and why is this even a problem? We once had a regional beer industry with the raw material grown and produced here. Prohibition ended that. When the 21st Amendment passed and alcoholic beverages were again legal, the agriculture that provided raw materials for brewed beverages did not revive.

In the last several decades, there has been interest in local and sustainable practices in raising what we eat and drink. Craft beer also gained a following as people desired more than the watery national brands.

Jonathan and Suzanne are at the confluence of the two streams. They share an interest in beer with character and sustainability. Suzanne, teaching at Worcester Polytechnic Institute has sustainable as a broad interest of her work. Jonathan ran the chef’s garden at the Salem Cross Inn. That, and writing the book tells you where he stands.

The couple have been working toward beer made with completely Massachusetts ingredients. They pioneered a beer CSA. A CSA, Community Supported Agriculture, is where people buy shares in the harvest of a farm and receive a portion through the growing season. The Homefield Brewing CSA provided members with suds as locally sourced as possible. The choice of name should be self-evident.

The logical progression would be a brew pub. Interest in the artistry of beer making is one thing, to have to go through all the work of searching for a location and enduring the bureaucratic approval process is another. Still, they did it all.

Homefield Brewing has opened at 3 Arnold Road, just off of Main, in Sturbridge on the lower level below the recently closed Village Music. It is across the street from the Senior Center.

Thus, it was time for us to come down from Long Hill and pay a visit. While Jonathan was off making beer, my wife and I got to sit down with Suzanne on a Saturday afternoon. The venue is a welcoming spot with a long counter where the beer is served. The east wall is beautiful stone work by local artisan Randy Noble.

Before she came over, we had ordered some beer. Robin tried the Copacetic and I got Doug the Iconoclast. I asked Suzanne how the name, Doug the Iconoclast came about for a beer? The yeast was cultivated in Douglas by Brian Kretschmann of KBC brewing.

I also tried Gratitude. This is made with Trappist yeast from the Spencer monastery.

We asked about styles and Suzanne said they don’t label them as such. It may be like an IPA or Belgian, and be described that way, but the goal is to do something unique to the land. Suzanne said Jonathan put it this way, “It doesn’t make sense to make a beer from the New England terroir after another style from a different part of the world.”

The French word “terroir” refers to the environmental conditions, especially soil and climate that the ingredients are grown in. Though most associated with wine growing regions, it is not limited to grapes. The Valley Malt from Hadley and the Hops from Four Star Farms in Northfield validate Jonathan’s thoughts on terroir.

Homefield does not only serve its own brews, but features beers from producers as far away as Bratttleboro, VT. The whole local beer movement in New England is supportive of each other. Rapscallion up the street and Wormtown in Worcester as well as KBC in Webster have worked with Homefield.

As much as beer is the raison d’être of Homefield, one need not starve at 3 Arnold Road. There is a menu that is in keeping with the local ethos. You can choose a panini or quesadilla or from an à la carte snack board.

Cheese’s come from just to the north at Robinson’s Farm in Hardwick or Westfield Farm in Hubbardston. Breads are from Brynne’s in Oakham and Rose 32.

Suzanne herself provides wonderful pickled eggs from her own hens among other treats. There is a collection of condiments including West Brookfield’s In-A-Jam and Ugly Hot Sauce out of Boston. Honey from Brookfield’s Grimes Apiary is available.

We were just about the only folks when the doors opened. As we spoke with Suzanne, people filtered in and filled the tables. On weekends there is music.

Homefield is as pleasant a space as there is in Sturbridge and surrounding towns. The beer is well worth the trip. It is open Thursday and Friday from 2:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Saturday opening is noon and closing at 9:00 p.m. Sunday opening is also at noon and closing is at 6:00 p.m.

There is a website at http://homefieldbrewing.com/ and Homefield is also on Facebook.

To see the original as published in the magazine, click here.

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